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Iditarod’s Iconic Burled Arch Collapses in Nome, Replacement Underway

April 28, 2024 (Updated April 30, 2024)

Sarah Swartz, News Reporter

Ben Townsend, News Director

One of the most iconic signs in Alaska collapsed early Saturday evening. The Iditarod’s Burled Arch that marks the finish line of the annual Sled Dog Race fell in Anvil City Square in Nome. Attendees of a Ties and Tiaras dance being held at the nearby Old St. Joe’s Church stepped outside momentarily to cool off and witnessed the arch crumble. 

The area in the Anvil City Square where the arch once stood on the morning of April 30. Ben Townsend photo.

Dust clouded the air and shards of wood could be found scattered across the damp ground where the arch stood just moments before. Devin Bodine was among those who heard the commotion and rushed to the scene. Bodine and other adults wanted to make sure no one was nearby or injured. 

“Just lucky no kids were playing on it at the time it happened. Better to have it be a sad day for the Iditarod fans than a sad day for families,” Bodine said.

Robert Kuiper hand carved the burled arch in his workshop in Sterling, Alaska. He was devastated to hear the news about the arch collapsing, a project that he says he spent hundreds of hours on. After crafting the piece, Kuiper carved his name into the sign that served the Iditarod from 2000 to 2024. 

“I was really surprised and kind of shocked and saddened. It's been real meaningful to me. It really caught me off guard. The arch was like my baby."

As locals looked over the ruins some took home pieces of the historic sign, making it impossible to reassemble the original. Nome Mayor and Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC) member John Handeland has urged anyone who picked up any pieces of the symbolic spruce to return them to the City. 

A replacement was already in the process of being commissioned prior to the collapse, according to ITC Director of Marketing and Communications Shannon Noonan. The now-destroyed sign was going to be moved to the Nome Recreation Center to be displayed with the original sign. Options for preserving the destroyed sign are still being considered.

What will become the third arch to grace the finish line is planned to be ready in time for Iditarod 2025. Race Director Mark Nordman and the City of Nome will collaborate on the project. In keeping with tradition, organizers are insistent that the wooden arch has natural burls, just like its two predecessors.

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